What started as a way to fill in time during lockdown has led Oamaru chef Jomel Bartolome to test himself at an international cooking competition.
During Covid-19 Alert Level 4, the Northstar Restaurant and Bar chef saw an advertisement for a chef challenge hosted by Lee Kum Kee, a Hong Kong-based food company which makes a range of Asian sauces.
Mr Bartolome decided to enter the competition by sending in a video of him making a dish – nasingot na bavi, a sweet pork loin with salsa – using Lee Kum Kee products.
Originally from the Philippines, but with a background in French cooking, Mr Bartolome combined all his culinary influences in the recipe.
“The dish itself was made by using Asian ingredients and spices,” he said.
“The taste will be familiar if you eat a lot of Asian food. It will be topped with salsa … coming from Spain’s influence in the Philippines.
“The dish was executed using my background and training through French cooking techniques.”
It was the first cooking competition be named as a finalist in the New Zealand leg of the competition.
On October 12, he will fly to Auckland to recreate his dish within a time of one hour.
A $3000 prize, an ambassadorial role with Lee Kum Kee and the chance to represent New Zealand at the international finals in Hong Kong in September 2021, are all on the line.
Mr Bartolome has lived in Oamaru with family for two years, and thanked the Oamaru Licensing Trust for its support, particularly in a challenging 2020.
“Words can’t express enough how thankful I am for the continuous support and assistance so that my family can stay and live longer in Oamaru.
“I’d love to say everything is OK this year, but for now all I can say is we are thankful that my wife and I still have our jobs.
“I hope Covid-19 will be over soon so that we can go back to a normal way of living.”
Mr Bartolome is also an award-winning photographer.
He has completed two photo essays recently, one documenting the first year of his family’s move to Oamaru, and a lockdown photo journal.